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All the Flowers in Shanghai    by Duncan Jepson order for
All the Flowers in Shanghai
by Duncan Jepson
Order:  USA  Can
William Morrow, 2011 (2011)
Softcover, e-Book

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* *   Reviewed by Mary Ann Smyth

It's the 1930s in Shanghai, before World War II and before Mao. Duty is the most important element in young Feng's life, as well as how the community will evaluate the family. Giving face.

Feng is not looking forward to an arranged marriage, but there is little choice for her. She bows to convention and the entreaties and commands of her mother, who desires nothing more than to be considered a person of importance. Up to then, her secluded life had involved spending her days with Grandfather in his garden learning the names of all the flowers in Latin!

When she must leave and move to her in-laws' wealthy home with many of her new husband's relatives, Feng is broken-hearted, but adapts, as she must. Her husband is handsome and rich but Feng finds little consolation in him for the life she left behind.

Fast forward to the time of Mao and the sacrifices that must be made during the hard change to communism. It's a regimented life very different from the one Feng had lived before this. All the Flowers in Shanghai is a history lesson for us all. Life under the Mao regime must have been unbearable. And while the story does not include the war years, they are alluded to.

I knew that life in China had never been a bed of roses except for the very wealthy. All the Flowers of Shanghai opened my eyes to the reality. My uncle had been stationed in Shanghai as a U.S. Marine when the war broke out. He often wrote home about how hard life was for the poor and underprivileged. But I never recognized the deprivations most of the masses suffered. This is an enlightening book, and one that raised the feminism flag once again for me.

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